How old you when you wrote your first story?
I must have been in Grade 2 or 3, so I might have been 7 or 8 years old. That was very long time ago.
What genre was that ?
*laughing: We were raised on Dick and Jane in public school, so its safe to say it was non-specific genre, probably fiction.
Do you think that or do you have another series in mind? Where would it be located?
Another series is probably not on the radar. We write what we know. Funeral Service was a part of my life, there are many “parts”. I can’t answer that question yet, I am hoping to write two or three more books in The Spencer Funeral Home Niagara series. Should I do another series, it would be located in northern Canada
Where do write from?
There is an old recliner in my bedroom where I sit much of the day with my laptop. Physically that is the space I use, where I fell safe and productive.
When I am writing a book my emotions are constantly active. Writing the first draft is relatively easy, the books, so far, have almost written themselves. My characters seem real to me and I have been known to call my friends by my character’s names. I see the every detail of funeral home, and I can visualize my characters down to what they are wearing. The “town” the series is set in is similar to the one I live in, close to Niagara Falls.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?
Volunteering. I wasn’t to keep busy. Reading, I want to keep my mind sharp. I am a news junkie and I enjoy non-fiction. Cozies are a guilty pleasure. Walking. Living in the Niagara Region, a temperate climate area for Canada has allowed me to get out and about.
How much support do you receive in relation to your writing and eventual publication? From where and whom?
My first book, the Making of a Funeral Director was non-fiction. I had no support. I just assumed I could self-publish. I did my own editing, proofing, used a photo I had taken when digital cameras were new for the cover and more or less bubbled my through the uploading to Amazon and Kobo. I paid $5 on Fivver for the lettering. I got the ISBN and copyright myself.
I hit a brick wall with Smashwords meta data process. That formatting completely eluded me, in spite of reading the booklet over and over. I had to get a company to do the formatting. Entire cost of publishing was under $100. That was a lofty sum for a retiree like me.
The old saying—no man is an island rings true. I made a choice to ask for help for Casket Cache. Wise decision on my part. Family and friends are not as excited about my writing as I am and I try not to burden them with my enthusiasm. An editor was recommended, she offers services at an exceptional price, I pick what I can afford. By Winter’s Mourning, we had become good friends and partners, I depended on her expertise for creative content critique, formatting, uploading and editing, proofing, cover assistance. Cost for each book—around $450. I borrowed the money.
Grave Mistake (Book 3) may be a bit longer coming out, I will save again until I can use her services. It would foolish of me to attempt to go it along. What MJ can do in ten minutes takes me hours. She told me her as editor was to work with emerging writers, freeing them to write. I appreciate and need her mentorship.
If you could do only one form of writing, would you write stories or keep a blog? Why?
Write stories. Blogging is not my cup of tea. I enjoy reading good blogs. My twin sister blogged long before it was fashionable, she was very good at it (she is a retired journalist). It gave her purpose and she used the platform to educate others.
How did you find your niche?
Believe it or not, a few years ago I didn’t know cozy mysteries were a niche. (smile)
I like to escape when I read. The news is full of violence and inhumanity. When I was little I was orphaned. Life wasn’t kind. I disappeared into books, nice safe places that made me forget where I really was I wasn’t athletic, I failed miserable at sports. Even fantasy, such as C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series scared me. I prefer memoirs and historical fiction. Diana Xarissa’s Aunt Bessie series was my first “ah ha” introduction to cozy mysteries. Aunt Bessie gets cranky and hungry and tired and she is smart and engaging. Course in the real world, female protagonists don’t work with the police.
How much research do you do for your books?
My series has to be current and factual, everyone at some point will need a funeral director. It’s very important to me that my readers are educated as well as entertained. I did call the police for procedural information. They were mostly helpful, I approached some funeral homes to check on the latest procedures and found one was very welcoming, others not so much. I approached a lawyer’s office about legal procedures and they were not very nice.
Most of my research is done online and it ones ongoing as I write.
What surprised you most about the publishing process?
Marketing is work, books don’t sell themselves. There are more books than readers. I learned that once a book goes to press, whether it be self-published or with a publisher, the real work begins. I spend up two hours or more hours a day on Twitter, blogs, Facebook. i check Goodreads and Twitter often throughout the day and respond as quickly as possible to anyone who contacts me. I had to learn to use Twitter and navigate Goodreads and look for ways to stay in touch with potential readers. I seldom promote my books, my tweets entertain and garner followers and I review every book I read.
What do you want your obituary to say? What do you want engraved on your headstone?
Tough question. I suspect my grave marker won’t say anything, I expect I will be cremated and buried in the family plot on the other side o the province. If it could, it would probably say “she was nice. I hear that a lot now. It me sixty years to become nice. My obituary? I don’t want one. I am a special needs mom, two of my children cannot read or write. I moved south to Niagara several years ago and while I have good friends here, an obituary will not matter.